DETROIT (WWJ) – Investigators are still trying to answer a lot of questions about the fatal fire that killed two young girls Wednesday morning.
While the girls’ mother and father have been questioned by police, neighbor Ronald Douglas, who lives around the corner from the burned home, says he is heartbroken. He doesn’t believe Dante Cook, the girls’ father, is responsible for the death of his daughters. “That’s impossible”…”I don’t think he had nothing to with it,” says Douglas.
The front steps of the burned out house is now a makeshift memorial. Douglas was among the first to put colorful stuffed animals against the backdrop of charred rubble. “It hurt me to my heart because these kids, a 10- and a 8-year-old, they didn’t have nothing to do with this,” says Douglas. He believes someone the father had problems with fire-bombed the home, but he says the father is not to blame for the death of the girls.
A pile of charred rubble is all that stands as a reminder of a tragic fire that took the lives of two young girls. Dante Cook said a firebomb was thrown through a window of his home on Rolfs Place near Mack on Detroit’s east side.
Cook jumped from a second story window, making it out of his burning home unharmed. But, his two daughters, 8-year old Alaya and 10-year old Lataya, did not.
A makeshift memorial of stuffed animals sits vigil on the front stairs which survived the fast-burning fire. Two pieces of blue plastic seen at the side of the house mark the areas where the little girls’ bodies were found.
Margarite Cook got the tragic news from her brother in a phone call early in the morning.
“Apparently, someone had thrown a firebomb through the front window. He ran upstairs to secure the girls… and by the time he got up the stairs, it was getting really smokey. He jumped out the window and told the girls to follow behind him. He looked up at the window and the girls said ‘Daddy, I can’t. I’m scared’,” Cook said.
The girls never jumped.
Their aunt, Tiffany Jackson, said she doesn’t believe the dad’s story, and blames him for their deaths.
“That’s the bottom line — he’s a murderer. Because, how could you leave your kids in a house that’s burning, and you get out?”
Family friend, Mary Alexander, agrees.
“It’s not adding up. It’s too many different stories going around,” Alexander said.
But Margarite Cook tells WWJ’s Vickie Thomas her brother did try to save his daughters.
“My brother loved those girls so much. He would never have abandoned them. He came out of the house with the intentioned of catching the girls,” she said.
“There’s a lot of tension. (Cook and his wife) were in the process of a divorce, and that’s why you’ll hear the negative things… My brother would never do anything like this at all,” Margarite Cook said.
Alaya, a third grader, and Lataya, a fourth grader, attended Spain Elementary Middle School in Detroit. A Detroit Public Schools spokesman says the principal held an assembly for their classmates. DPS manager Robert Bobb was there to speak to the students and give them comfort and support.